Posted originally on another blog on September 25th, 2003:
These events, as they happened, are true.
Wednesday morning, my family and I decided to take a day tour of the Landis Valley Museum accompanying a homeschooling co-op. We all agreed to travel to Biglerville to meet and caravan together to the museum.
While at the Biglerville home where we met, my wife, Cherie, went inside to chat with the other mothers while I sat in the family van catching up on my reading with my three sons.
After a few moments, I looked up and my gaze naturally fell on the rear view mirror giving me an unobstructed view of the area behind my vehicle. In the mirror, a young girl stood behind the van on the sidewalk looking directly at me.
This would not seem at all strange except she was dressed in a style that made her look like she had stepped out of the 1890’s. A mousy brown dress swept down to mid-calf, a ribbon around her waist serving as the only adornment. Her brown hair was cut in a severe Buster Brown-style, long bangs and shoulder length hair sweeping in toward her face. On her feet she wore high-topped black-leather shoes with buttons and laces.
She’s overdressed for school, I thought.
We locked eyes through the mirror and I felt a niggling doubt at the edge of my brain that something was not right about this scenario. The thought that a young girl out of time and I would stare at each other through a rearview mirror brought a sudden chill up my spine and, in spite of myself, I thought of the myriad ghost stories that are so popular in this south-central part of Pennsylvania.
Though a member of the clergy, I am an agnostic when it comes to the subject of ghosts. I may like to read about haunted houses and may have even tried my literary hand at the genre, but I don’t believe that spirits of the dead stay earth-bound tormenting the living. Yet, if I was to ever see a ghost, would it not be in a strange situation like this? Wouldn’t it be right in a perverse way that a phantom of a young girl from the 1890’s would walk the sidewalks of a town where most of the homes and businesses were built even farther back than that? That on an early morning of slate-gray skies, a specter from the past might just walk the streets?
But when the young girl raised her left hand and with a crooked finger beckoned me, my heart flip-flopped and the walls of my supernatural agnosticism began to crumble, for the look on the young girl’s face was not the appearance of Oliver Onions’ The Beckoning Fair One, but a grim-faced revenant that obviously wanted to wipe the street with my sorry excuse for a carcass.
But I still had my trump card to save my skepticism.
Without taking my eyes of the girl motioning for me with a crooked finger in the rear view mirror, not even blinking for fear that if she disappeared, my mind would go screaming into abysses where I’d never find it again, I called to my oldest son who was quietly reading in the back seat.
“Brendan,” I said , knowing he would remove the mystery. “Do you know that young girl standing right behind the van on the sidewalk?”
Brendan put his book down and turned to look out the back window.
“What girl?” he asked.
Now, Gentle Reader, you don’t have a clue as to what I felt at that moment, a melange of emotions ranging from anger as to why a supernatural experience should happen to a nondescript country bumpkin like me to bewilderment as to why some phantasm of a little girl approached me with an expression on her face that clearly said, “C’mon, preacherman, and let’s duke it out. If I win...you lose.”
Now, what’s interesting, Gentle Reader, is not how I felt, but I’m curious as to how you feel knowing that everything I’ve told you is true. No joke. There is no respite for you because I’m not going to say, “Ha! Ha! Just kidding!” or “And then I woke up!” Everything you’ve read is exactly how it went.
But let me continue.
In the midst of my growing wave of terror, Brendan turned his head a fraction of an inch more and said, “Oh, her? No. I don’t know her.”
Reality snapped back like a rubber band.
But, I thought, why is she motioning to me. Well, it boiled down to a matter of perception. She was actually motioning toward her younger brother standing down the block who was obviously ignoring her.
And her manner of dress? I got to meet her family at the field trip. They’re all dressed like they stepped out of an 1890’s Sears catalog.